A bill to repeal the death penalty in Maryland cleared the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last night. The bill, a major priority for Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), is expected to pass the state senate, where 26 of the body’s 47 members have said they will support the bill.
If the bill also passes the state house, where it is expected to have an easier road than it did in the senate, Maryland will join a growing national trend away from executions. According to a 2011 study by the Death Penalty Information Center, thirty-two U.S. jurisdictions executed no one in the proceeding five years. Moreover, although the death penalty is still technically legal in most states, executions themselves are rare outside handful of mostly Southern states. More than one third of all executions occurred in Texas:
The increasing rarity of the death penalty has constitutional implications. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishments.” Thus, as the death penalty becomes more and more unusual — or, as the Supreme Court has put it, as it no longer comports with “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” — it stands on weaker and weaker constitutional footing.